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This describes USGS marine data and information management Conference Table

The following are excerpts from the International Oceanographic Data and Information Excahnge (IDOE)'s General Infomation pages about Data Management and Info Management.

Marine Data Management: we can do more, but can we do better?
The planning and implementation of research, and the efficient management of the resulting data often appear to be two widely separated worlds. Data managers consider the careful collection, management and dissemination of research data as essential for the effective use of research funds. Many researchers, on the other hand, consider data management as technical, boring and an (un)necessary evil; so data management is often insufficiently planned, or not planned for at all, and is assigned a low priority. This is unfortunate, as there is much of social relevance and applicability in the colourful world of oceanographic data management.

Marine data management: a working definition
First, we need to distinguish 'data' from 'information'. 'Data' are observable, raw 'values' that result from research or monitoring activities; these values can be numerical (as in temperature or salinity measurements) or nominal (as in species lists for a particular region). The term 'information' is commonly used to mean data that have already been processed and/or interpreted results. In that sense, so-called 'metadata', i.e. data about data (e.g. by whom, at what time, where and how the results were collected) can be considered a special kind of 'information'.

Tackling a growing problem
The social relevance of measurement and sampling at sea, and the need to disseminate the results as widely and in as user-friendly a manner as possible, cannot be overestimated. More services and products useful to industry, the general public and policy makers, could, and should, be extracted from databases. The oceans cover two-thirds of the Earth, and about half the world population live in coastal areas, so monitoring the health, resources and 'tantrums' of the global ocean is no luxury. There are many applications of data-management that relate to climate and weather, safety at sea and along the coast, fisheries, offshore activities, management of the seas, etc.

Data centres in evolution
Changes in technology and changes in society are both forcing data centres to rethink their role and modus operandi. Another trend is the increased interest in biodiversity and the need to set up management and monitoring programmes to study marine (and other) biodiversity. Human-induced world-wide changes, such as global warming, will no doubt affect our living resources; one of the challenges of the new data centres is to integrate biological and physicochemical data and make both data types available for combined analysis. These and other developments were discussed at the 'Colour of Ocean Data' Symposium, held in Brussels in 2002. The last part of the symposium was dedicated to a panel discussion, in which the changing role of data centres was discussed. What follows is a brief overview of the most important trends and issues that were identified.
There is a trend away from the traditional data centre, with its main task of archiving datasets, towards becoming more service-orientated. Data centres can look towards libraries for inspiration to redefine their role; libraries provide expertise and guidance in cataloguing. Archives are grey and dusty, libraries are active and open; data centres should strive to resemble the latter rather than the former. Data management needs an equivalent to the 'Web of Science': a mechanism to bring up a list of relevant, available, quality controlled and peer-reviewed datasets.
Any mechanism for finding data - i.e. 'data discovery' - is meaningless (and very frustrating&) if it is not linked to a system for data distribution, through which the scientist or interested layperson can access actual data. Setting up both data discovery and data distribution mechanisms is made possible by recent developments in internet and database technology.
Some traditional roles of data centres remain important: long-term stewardship of data, integrating datasets, documenting and redistributing datasets, development of standards and standard operational procedures, etc... Datasets often result from particular projects, which usually have a limited time-span. Short-term data management, within the time span of the project, is usually not a problem: scientists need data management to produce useful results; moreover, making provisions for data management is often a prerequisite for getting a proposal accepted in the first place. After the project ends, however, there is a danger that detailed knowledge about the collected data can disappear, together with project staff. It is the mandate of data centres to work together with project staff, to ensure that data are properly documented, and that the integrity of the data themselves are safeguarded after completion of the project.
Meta-databases and other methods of data discovery will certainly gain more and more importance as the number of studies, and the number of scientists conducting these studies, increases. Such methods of data discovery, and better communication between and among scientists and data managers, are essential for avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort.
There is a need to create data and information products, not only for other data managers and scientists, but also for policy makers and society at large. These products will assist in increasing the visibility of data centres and demonstrate the usefulness of data management to a larger audience. As such, it may assist in attracting funds for further activities as well as data submissions from scientists.
Unfortunately, marine scientists are generally very poorly informed about data centres and about data and information management procedures. There is a need to investigate how to put data and information management on the curriculum of academic institutions. This would result in a greater awareness of data centres, and an increased quantity and quality of data submissions. Data managers should actively seek collaboration with scientists. Involvement of data managers in the planning of projects at a very early stage, and more input in the development of data collection makes 'Beginning-to-end data management' a reality.

The future
Managers of marine data are facing major challenges. First, there is the incredible increase in the volume of data, especially in the area of remote sensing. Second, there is the great diversity in the types of data that have to be handled: physicochemical, geological, meteorological and biological data, all have to be integrated, and analyses and information products have to draw on all of them. Last but not least, there is a major discrepancy between the scale at which data are typically gathered, and the scale at which the data and information are needed. With very few exceptions, projects collect data and information on local scales, and over short time-spans. Humanity has brought on itself problems such as global warming and consequent sea-level rise, depletion of fish stocks, and pollution, which have generated a need for data and information on a global scale; integration of all available local datasets is the only way to create a data- and information base to support global decision-making.
Modern data management is inseparable from information technology. Recent developments in technology assist in coping with both the diversity and volume of data flows. The internet provides means to exchange data at no - or very low - cost. Electronic publishing is more and more the method of choice for communicating research results and other information. Database systems are becoming more sophisticated, allowing scientists and data managers to concentrate on subject matter rather than technical nitty-gritty. Computer systems are becoming faster, hard disk and other storage space is becoming cheaper, and information technology is making it possible to conduct data management, and devise information products, that could only be dreamed of just a couple of years ago.
The main challenge for data managers is now to remain in control of developments, and not to let marine data management become technology-driven. Obviously, recent technical developments should be monitored, and put to good use whenever and wherever relevant. But it is more important to continuously re-evaluate what the role of the data centres should be, rather than how objectives are being realized. The real issues for data management are standardization, collaboration and enabling knowledge-based decision-making. Obviously, we can do 'more'. But can we also do 'better'?

Marine Information Management: helping to understand and protect the marine environment
On our blue planet, the dominant feature is ocean. It contains 97 percent of the Earth's water and releases vapor into the atmosphere that returns as rain, sleet, and snow, ever replenishing the planet with freshwater. All life, including our own, is dependent on the ocean. Understanding the ocean is integral to comprehending this planet on which we live. Understanding the ocean is more than a matter of curiosity. Exploration, inquiry and study are required to better understand ocean systems and processes.
Marine Science Libraries hold an important role in promoting information about the marine environment: information provision to the policy makers - educating the next generation of environmental stewards; attracting a future environmentally concerned workforce and generating an ocean literate public that understands the value of the ocean and can make appropriate decisions to protect it.
On an International scale, networks of Marine Information Management (MIM) Centers, collaborating to produce products and services, strengthen our global understanding of ocean processes and conditions. Marine Information Management is a vital process in this knowledge cycle.

Our Users and Partners
The users of Marine Information include research scientists, policy makers, students at all levels, educators, industry and businesses. Marine Information Management Centers interact with Marine Data managers to deliver information products, e.g. Data that has been processed and interpreted. We may repackage the data in the form of electronic citation databases, internet bibliographies, regional repositories of stored and accessible scientific research, online catalogs of specialized collections, or digitized collections of difficult to find scientific studies. We establish national and international standards to disseminate this information, and we form groups of networked individuals and professional societies to collaborate on new products, on training courses and technology for the delivery of marine and atmospheric information.

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